Fashion and architecture have always been interrelated, but nowhere has it been seen more clearly than from the early 1980s, when the deconstructionist literary theorist Jacques Derrida and his contemporaries started to explore themes such as fragmentation, imperfection, tearing and rupturing and sparked new creative energy in both these fields.
Viktor + Rolf
Over the past thirty years, fashion designers have come to approach fabrics and garments as architectonic constructions, while architects embrace new forms and materials. Technological advances have revolutionized the design and construction of buildings and made techniques like pleating, seaming, folding, and draping an everyday addition to the architectural lexicon.
This first kicked off in April 1981, when Japanese fashion designers Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto first presented their work during their Parisian ready-to-wear collection show. Their oversized, often asymmetrical black clothing that they featured, showed large holes, tatters, and unfinished edges that stood in stark contrast to the elegantly decorative, crisply tailored, and form-fitting looks shown by most of the other designers that season. These collections challenged and changed the already accepted ideas of fashion, power, femininity and beauty.
In 1982, architect Bernard Tschumi won the international competition to design Parc de la Villette in Paris. This project, and in collaboration with Peter Eisenman and Jacques Derrida, introduced ideas of deconstruction to the public, and like the work of the Japanese fashion designers, this heralded a brave new direction that changed the public’s perception of both buildings and fashion.
Fashion is seen as transient and superficial, and uses soft, fluid materials; while architecture is thought to be immense and enduring. Despite obvious differences in size, scale, and materials, the source for both fashion design and architecture is, in fact, the human body and both expand on ideas of space and movement, which extend to express personal, political, and cultural identity. Architects and fashion designers produce their environments which are defined through spatial awareness.
Rather than opening up this new way of communication between architects and the public, “deconstructivism” took the field in an unwelcome direction. The aforementioned Tschumi and Eisenman and leading scholars of the time became embroiled in purely academic debates and produced a few forbidding buildings to go with a repertoire of dense essays. The result was that deconstructivism became totally isolated from the real world, real clients and real cities and increasingly obsessed with spinning out wearisome design theory. It wasn’t until a new generation of architects discovered digital design tools and rejected their embargo on beauty and clarity that architecture began to thrive again.